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Even in the best of times, balancing the demands of our career, the obligations in our personal lives, and our need for self-care can be a challenge.
I know I am not alone when I say that these last several years have been far from the “best” and when the entire world seems upside down, it sometimes feels like the stress and anxiety are swallowing me whole.
I have learned several valuable techniques to navigate the overwhelm, and I am sharing them here in the hopes that you, too, can lean into these strategies and navigate these challenging times with greater ease and peace of mind.
Here are seven ways to soothe your nervous system:
The free spirits in the room don’t like to hear this one, but the truth is that adding predictable milestones into our day helps to stabilize the body and soothe the mind.
This doesn’t mean every minute of your day needs to be choreographed. Just start by picking a small number of activities that you practice at the same time each day. For example, 10 minutes of stretching, 20 minutes to write in your journal, a quiet cup of tea at your favorite window seat, or even a small personal hygiene routine.
One of the key functions of ritual is the sense of normalcy and stability it creates, subconsciously helping us to reduce the feeling of being lost or out of control. Even small but predictable routines will help to iron out your stress levels in a matter of just a few weeks.
Get ahead of the curve with food prep and meal planning and simplify your eating habits to create more spaciousness in your daily routine. Pop a tray of your favorite vegetables in the oven first thing in the morning. Keep a pot of rice or roasted sweet potatoes in the fridge. Make a big pot of soup that will feed you for several meals.
Question your assumptions about what foods you need to eat and when:
Do you really need to eat more than one or two food items at any given meal?
Does each meal need to be totally different than the last one?
Are you eating a full meal every morning, noon, and night because your body needs it, or is that just a force of habit?
Nourishing yourself with simple meals will simplify your schedule and also create ease for your body. Prepping ahead ensures you have quick healthy options, allowing you to enjoy foods that support your long-term well-being.
Whether you live deep in the forest or in the heart of Manhattan, connecting with nature does a body good.
Find a patch of grass and plant your bare feet on the ground, then close your eyes and breathe deeply. Observe the phases of the moon, honor the changing of the seasons with your favorite holiday, or invent a ritual of your own.
Bring nature inside with houseplants and living herbs on your kitchen countertop. Place rocks and seashells on your desk and hold a heavy rock in your hands when you start to feel scattered or ungrounded.
Rub a few drops of essential oils in the palm of your hands, then cup your hands in front of your face and inhale slowly. Play a recording of rain or waves in the background.
Adults are great at telling children they need to limit their screen time, but they so often forget that this is important for their own health as well.
Practicing good digital hygiene is an essential component of maintaining sovereignty over your mental and emotional state.
Keep the phone away from your bed to prevent yourself from late-night doom scrolling. If you must wake up to an alarm, invest in a simple bedside clock. Ground yourself in the morning before you get online. Put all your devices to bed at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep.
Consider unplugging and making one day or month or even one day a week a technology-free day. Connect with family and friends the old-fashioned way with a voice-only phone call or even with a handwritten letter.
Creating order in your personal space saves time and frees up your mental bandwidth for more important tasks than searching for random items and lost sticky notes all day long. A well-organized space allows for habit automation, moving through your time and space more efficiently.
Decorating your space in a way that delights your eyes and nourishes your heart will add pleasure and motivation to your workday and fosters confidence in your ability to accomplish your goals.
Writing down all the random “must do” items weighing on your mind allows you to set them aside and focus without fear that you’re forgetting something, then allows you to prioritize your time for maximum efficiency. Checking off items on your agenda is not only an instant dopamine boost but also helps give you a visual reminder of how far you’ve come.
It’s not uncommon for ambitious and driven people to get so focused on their work goals that they lose track of the importance of relationships with the people around them. Humans are pack animals and even introverts need to connect and understand themselves in relation to others to feel truly nourished, grounded, and safe.
Prioritize time to genuinely connect with family, friends, and take the often-forgotten but hugely important step of connecting with and checking in on your neighbors, too.
Don’t forget that your most important relationship is with yourself.
When you regularly make time for movement, nourishment, reflection, and rest, your work time will become super-charged and far more efficient. Robbing time from your self-care may be an emergency strategy, but it never pays well over the long-term.
Think of this not as its own step, but as a means of perfecting all the steps above.
Pleasure is a mindset and a level of mastery you can bring to every activity throughout your day.
The process of discovering pleasure begins with allowing yourself to be deeply connected and present to everything that is—not trying to force it to be anything different.
From this place of surrender, you can turn your attention to the beauty, joy, humor, abundance, and peace that surround you, even in challenging times.
As your heart opens to the pleasure that is already available to you, you invite even greater levels of abundance, well-being, and joy to enter your life.
I hope these suggestions will prove to be helpful.
If you have any additional recommendations for strategies that you rely on to find peace in stressful times, please leave them in the comments.